Lost in the Woods
[ Back ]   [ More News ]   [ Home ]
Lost in the Woods

Welcome to GISWeekly! It’s tragically ironic that James Kim, a man who loved technology and wrote about gadgetry for a living, died in a remote, weather stricken part of Oregon, while trying to find help for his family.

Since that time, journalists and technology experts have reviewed what-might-have-been in an attempt to see how the tragedy could have been averted. Read about some new technologies in this week’s Industry News.

GISWeekly examines select top news each week, picks out worthwhile reading from around the web, and special interest items you might not find elsewhere. This issue will feature Industry News, Top News of the Week, Acquisitions/Alliances/Agreements, Announcements, People, New Products, and Events Calendar.

GISWeekly welcomes letters and feedback from readers, so let us know what you think. Send your comments to me at Email Contact 

Best wishes,
Susan Smith, Managing Editor

Industry News
Lost in the Woods
by Susan Smith

It’s tragically ironic that James Kim, a man who loved technology and wrote about gadgetry for a living, died in a remote, weather stricken part of Oregon, while trying to find help for his family.

Since that time, journalists and technology experts have reviewed what-might-have-been in an attempt to see how the tragedy could have been averted.

The Kim family became stranded on November 25th in a remote section of southern Oregon. The search began on November 29th when a family friend contacted the San Francisco Police Department. On November 30, a 16,604 square mile search area was defined, extending along the entire coast of Oregon and several miles inland. On that day, the Oregon State Police, Portland Police Bureau and all Oregon law enforcement agencies got involved. On December 1, the Oregon National Guard, Oregon Emergency Management, California Highway Patrol, helicopters and various other counties became involved in the search effort. Bear Camp Road, where many had become stranded in the past, was searched. By December 2, the search area narrowed down to 5,046 square miles. At this point, Edge Wireless became part of the command structure. Josephine County Emergency Management stated there was no official search at that time, although some searches had already been made by them. They did not have any information to suggest that the Kims were even in their county. One or two of the Kim’s phones registered on the Edge Wireless network, and a transmission had been received to or from on November 25th at 1:30 a.m. An employee at the Wilsonville Visitor Center had given the Kims directions for several routes between Myrtle Creek and Grants Pass, over the mountain to Golds Beach. Eric Fuqua, a radio signal technician with Edge Wireless, had managed to identify a ping signal from the Kims’ phone and was also able to geographically locate where the phone had pinged at the time on December 26, which was in the vicinity of Bear Camp Road. Using the Edge Wireless cell tower map, authorities were able to identify the location of the pings.

In light of this new information, although Bear Camp Road had already been searched, a new search encompassing 531 square miles was launched on December 4. Fuqua told authorities that the "ping" indicated that the Kim phone was within a 26-mile radius of that specific tower, in Glendale, Ore. on 11/26/2006. Kati Kim and her daughters were rescued on December 4, one week after they had become stranded. The body of her husband James was found on December 6.

Why, when we have so much technology, was this search and rescue operation so difficult and took so long?

There are no simple answers. The area in which the Kims got lost was known by locals as an easy place to get lost. It was a long holiday weekend, and it appeared that there were communication problems between some county search professionals. Additionally, the search and rescue operations were complicated by the fact the search area was not defined until December 2, when Fuqua provided some information. The weather also made the search difficult.

Technology

Mark Brender, VP, Communications & Marketing for GeoEye, satellite imaging company, said, “My view is that between map accurate satellite imagery, GPS receivers, and a satellite phone, no one ever needs to be lost ever again.”

click to enlarge [ Click to Enlarge ]

IKONOS coverage map, courtesy of GeoEye
Obviously, in the case of this search and rescue, cell phones, even lacking coverage in this remote area, have emerged as the lifesavers of the Kims story. The additional geographic probability software that Fuqua used was enormously helpful in pinpointing the region of the cell phone pings. Satellite imagery would have been more useful earlier in the search, but was re-tasked to fly over on December 6, the day Kim’s body was found. In a CNET article entitled, Tech Tips for Wilderness Survival, satellite phones are said to be a better tool for emergencies in remote areas than cell phones or GPS. The hardware has come down in price and the service is less expensive, plus satellite phones do not require a cell phone tower within a certain distance, as a cell phone does. All you need with a satellite phone is a clear line of sight to the sky.

Brender said they had been following the Kim story for a week or so. Originally they had thought about using some archived imagery, but all of their images were cloudy, as is often the case in that region. “Then we received an email from a software developer in New York who recommended that we try to get satellite imagery over the search area. Our technicians said the satellite would be in the area the next day and it was supposed to be fairly clear. So we went ahead and tasked the satellite to image about 1,000 square kilometers of the search area.” Even though James Kim’s body was found that day, GeoEye still provided the imagery to the GIS manager for the county. “Now imagery can be used as a search management tool and so searchers can actually have imagery at hand and see paths they couldn’t see any other way. Maybe they could see an SOS or maybe they could see a clearing where they could set a helicopter down and put more feet on the ground, whereas looking at a map, they wouldn’t see any of that.”

GeoEye has two high resolution earth imaging satellites, the IKONOS, and the ORBView-3 that both have ground resolutions of 1 meter, meaning they can see objects from more than 400 miles in space, that are as small as 1 meter in size or larger.

The satellites move around the earth in a polar orbit at 17,000 miles per hour, and from the North Pole, under the South Pole, back to the North pole in 98 minutes, so they’re moving at 17,000 miles per hour, or about 4 miles per second. “As we move around the earth, we’re able to look down with a very powerful camera and take images of earth,” said Brender. “Because there is GPS in the brains of the satellite, and GPS is embedded in each pixel, if we took a picture of your house, if we put our cursor right over that point on the left hand corner of your roof, up will pop latitude and longitude. These satellites are basically mapping machines in orbit.”

Later this year, GeoEye will launch GeoEye 1, a satellite funded by the NGA that will have a ground resolution of 16 inches. “We’re really entering an age of transparency where nothing needs to be distant anymore.”

Areas that customers want imaged are typically economic regions such as cities, ports, harbors, areas of boundary such as the U.S.-Mexico and Canadian borders, the Amazon River, and over areas of conflict. The only exception to that rule is GeoEye has imaged almost the entire continent of Australia, mainly because there’s nothing else to shoot when flying over Australia. Sometimes GeoEye does speculative collects of areas they think customers may want some day.

Navigation Systems

Beyond the cell phone, car manufacturers are rapidly adopting in-car navigation systems that will offer more information such as road and traffic conditions. Also navigation systems can operate in remote locations, and can download maps to let users know their general location. Satellite-based services are already in place that can overlay road conditions onto the maps in a car’s navigation system.

In the article, New Directions in Car Safety and Navigation  , "Next-generation navigation systems will have connectivity and map a certain state of the road, whether it's closed or snowy, or even traffic-heavy, to give you an understanding of conditions," said Arne Stoschek, who heads development of displays and sensors at the Electronics Research Lab at Volkswagen of America. For example, a stretch of road that's icy could be marked on the map in red, and roads without problems could be shown in green, he said.

Other possibilities include the $700 406MHz personal locator beacon, capable of transmitting a “distress call and GPS-derived coordinates from anywhere in the world.”

Summary

Obviously the technology is here or on the way, however, there is still a long way to go before no one will ever get lost again.

We have the technology, but there are only a handful of paying customers. Remote areas are not adequately mapped or imaged, and cell phone coverage is sparse in many of these areas. Satellite imagery is limited by weather patterns and cloud cover. In-car navigation systems are an exciting new tool, but the maps of road conditions that are most likely shown on such a system to date are those in more densely traveled areas.

Remote areas also run the risk of being left off some maps. At the beginning of December, I referenced a story entitled,  Georgia Drops Nearly 500 Communities Off Its Map, (by Greg Bluestein, AP), which told how 488 communities have been erased from the latest version of Georgia's official map. Residents of some of those communities are working to get their towns back on the map.

In some parts of the world, there is not much satellite coverage, such as over South America, and Africa. This is because there is a lack of skilled people who know how to handle the imagery in many developing countries, according to Brender. Currently there are no education programs in place, however, GeoEye is establishing the GeoEye Foundation which will provide some key universities with selected imagery at no cost in order to support specific research projects.

The search engines, namely Google Earth, Microsoft Virtual Earth and Yahoo have contributed to shrinking the world, due to their ability to display aerial and satellite imagery and make it accessible to so many people.

These virtual worlds will eventually help keep us safe. Yet the snowy, frigid woods of our real world will always require a certain heightened awareness from us. Between the time our location is discovered in the woods, until the time we are actually rescued could be hours or days, depending upon circumstances such as geography, topography and weather. Since the Kims’ ordeal, note the higher sales at retail outlets such as REI and Eddie Bauer for blankets, flashlights, GPSes, tents, sleeping bags and other survival equipment, just to carry in the car, just in case.

In the meantime, until technology makes just about every corner of the globe safe, until there are enough skilled people to manage and distribute the ever-increasing amount of valuable image and location data, I will most likely continue to carry food, water, flashlights, matches, maps, blankets, and sleeping bags in my car whenever I take a road trip.

Top News of the Week

GeoEye announced the delivery of the camera for its next-generation commercial imaging satellite to General Dynamics Advanced Information Systems in Gilbert, Arizona for integration into the satellite. When operational, GeoEye-1 will be the world's highest resolution commercial imaging satellite.

ITT (Rochester, New York) built the sensor, optical telescope assembly, detectors and focal plane assembly, and the high-speed digital processing electronics. The sensor is the single most important component of GeoEye-1 and it is considered a major milestone when the sensor is delivered to the prime contractor. The sensor was delivered to General Dynamics earlier this week.

TDC Group, Inc. announced that FreeanceTM, its industry-leading Web mapping application, has been extended to create geographic information system (GIS) and database applications for BlackBerry® handsets from Research In Motion (RIM).This new functionality brings the popular no-programming, plug-and-play Freeance software application to a new group of mobile users with unique capabilities that leverage the BlackBerry platform.

Alliances/Acquisitions/Agreements

Orion Technology Inc. announced that it is forming a partnership with Swift LG. Swift LG will distribute Orion’s out-of-the-box web-GIS software suite, OnPoint™, to the Public Sector, Utilities and Energy markets in the United Kingdom.

Swift LG is a long-standing supplier of Geospatial Solutions, Land and Property Administration software and Local and Central Government applications. The company has a proven track record in Geospatial integration with particular expertise in Land and Property applications. Swift’s Consultancy division provides guidance on strategy and practical "hands on" services to major organizations looking to capitalize on existing investments in Geospatial technologies.

CH2M HILL Enterprise Spatial Solutions announced a strategic partnership with IDV Solutions, a global location intelligence and visualization software and solutions company, to deliver enterprise spatial solutions, composite applications and systems integration services.

The partnership between CH2M HILL and IDV Solutions enables both businesses to offer its global clients both front-end and back-end systems integration expertise through one combined effort.

Announcements

The Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) recently became a member of the World Wide Web Consortium, (W3C) a standards organization that develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential.

The OGC is participating in a W3C incubator activity focusing on semantic geospatial issues. W3C Incubator Activities facilitate rapid development, on a time scale of a year or less, of new Web-related concepts. The semantic geospatial activity or Geospatial XG is sponsored by W3C members OGC, SRI International, University of Southern California Information Sciences Institute (USC ISI), Stanford University and Oracle and is chaired by Traverse Technology's Joshua Lieberman.

ESRI has expanded its 4-H Club geographic information system (GIS) grant program for 2007. The grants include GIS software, training, and supplemental materials.

The 2007 initiative offers grants for both introductory- and intermediate-level GIS programs. The introductory level supports 4-H Clubs new to GIS and GPS technology. The intermediate level is for clubs that have successfully applied for and received software under a previous 4-H GIS grant from ESRI and have completed the requirements of submitting a Community Atlas project, participating in a GIS Day event, and completing a community service project.

Highways surveying company Data Collection has purchased a $1.8m vehicle to laser map road surfaces across Britain. The vehicle is an Anglo-Canadian development and is equipped with a state-of-the-art laser scanner and military-grade satellite positioning technology. The vehicle will be used to map the condition of road surfaces in more detail than ever before, helping highway authorities to improve road maintenance.

Infoterra Ltd, a provider of the provision of geospatial products and services, announced that it has supplied both, the Gloucestershire Centre for Environmental Records, and the Berkshire, Buckinghamshire & Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust with 25cm resolution aerial photography. This GeoPerspectives™ imagery will allow both wildlife organizations to increase their awareness of the environments they protect, and enable them to map features and monitor change of the landscape.

People

Getmapping has appointed a new Technical Director to help drive the business forward through the introduction of new products and services.

K S Gopalakrishnan, known in the company as Gopal, has been appointed as Technical Director. He has been with the company for six years and has been the inspiration behind Getmapping’s market leading website. Gopal has ambitious plans for the next phase of Getmapping’s development.

New Products

Operation Technology, Inc. (OTI) announced the ability to provide access to OTI’s ETAP power system analysis platform via Telvent Miner & Miner’s ArcFM product. ArcFM is an ESRI-based Geographic Information System (GIS) facilities management solution. This integration will provide the electrical utility sector with the platform to significantly simplify power system analysis using data extracted from the GIS.

Guardian ProStar, Inc. announced the release of PointMan, its commercial field data collection software system. According to Guardian CEO Page Tucker, PointMan provides new and improved capabilities in utility infrastructure data collection, transfer and management.

Geosoft® Incorporated, a provider of earth data solutions for the geosciences industry, announced the availability of its 2007 software release, which includes release 6.4 of the Oasis montaj™ earth mapping system and Target™ exploration geology software for Windows, and the 2.2 release of Target for ArcGIS subsurface geology software for ESRI's ArcGIS. The software release delivers new productivity tools, enriched 3D and imaging features that respond to geoscientists' requirement for more advanced visualization capabilities and faster, easier production of data outcomes to support decision-making.

Incorporating the experiences of more than 10,000 users, Autodesk, Inc. unveiled the latest preview of Autodesk Impression software that gives architects and other CAD users a helping hand with creating illustrative presentation graphics from DWG and DWF files. The technology preview found on Autodesk Labs improves teams' productivity, and ultimately client satisfaction, by virtually eliminating the manual labor previously required to develop compelling images from CAD drawings.

Ricoh Corporation solidified its leadership position in providing cameras with integrated GPS technology by releasing the 500SE GPS-ready digital camera . Developed for outdoor location-based photography, the 500SE boasts extreme ruggedization and high resolution to meet the image quality and all-weather usability demanded by the mobile GPS photographer. The camera's integrated precision GPS module provides for an all-in-one, easy- to-use device for geo-coding images and video at the time of capture. For applications that require even greater precision, the camera is capable of receiving NMEA data streams from external GPS devices via its on-board Bluetooth(R) radio.

Apex Software announced to its clients the immediate availability of one new product, new Professional Services and revealed two new products launching this quarter.

The suite of new products spans from field inspection to the office, seamlessly interconnecting mobility, desktop, Geographic Information System (GIS) layers and CAMA systems to substantially save county jurisdictions valuable time, money and resources.


Upcoming Events

GIS Integration Strategy and Direction  
Date: February 7, 2007 
Place: via WebEx
USA
Accela’s free Webinars (online seminars) offer valuable information for everyone from current customers to interested prospects. In addition to live Webinars, some events will be recorded and posted online for viewing at your convenience. Minimum requirements to attend are an Internet connection and phone line.
   
ILMF 2007
Date: February 12 - 13, 2007 
Place: Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel
Baltimore, MD USA
The International LIDAR Mapping Forum (ILMF) has become the premier event for the LIDAR industry. This "Summit" is the gathering of industry leaders, pioneers, experts from government, academia, and professionals from myriad industries looking to invest in, and benefit from, LIDAR technology and services.
   
Missouri GIS Conference 2007
Date: February 19 - 22, 2007
Place: Tan-Tar–A Resort
Osage Beach, MO USA
You're invited to the 11th annual Missouri GIS Conference. Come meet your colleagues in the Missouri geospatial community while taking advantage of one of the best conference deals around. What better chance is there to foster communication and sharing of geographic technologies, techniques, data and information within the Missouri user community?
   
Kuwait Third GIS Conference and Exhibition
Date: February 19 - 21, 2007 
Place: Crown Plaza Hotel, AlMurjan Hall
Kuwait
The conference provides a forum for users of geographic information systems in Kuwait and the Gulf region. Past conferences have featured presentations and keynote addresses on a variety of topics, from resource and environmental management to education and other emerging spatial science applications.
   
ESRI Petroleum User Group Conference
Date: February 23 - March 2, 2007
Place: Houston, TX USA


Rating: